Nineteen-year-old Trixie Belden raced up the hill from Crabapple Farm to the Manor House. It was late June and the temperatures had been rising all day. She had spent most of the day cleaning out the chicken coup and pulling weeds in the garden. Now all she wanted to do was join the other B.W.G.’s at the Manor House Lake for a swim to cool off.

Her brothers, Mart and Brian, had left about ten minutes ahead of her, so she was surprised that no one was at the lake when she arrived. Not to be deterred, she went into the boathouse where they all kept spare swimsuits and changed into her light blue one-piece racing suit.

By the time she had changed, she began to wonder if she had misunderstood the plans this morning. There was still now sign of the other Bob-Whites. Thinking back to the conversation she had with Honey, she was sure they had agreed that everyone would meet at the lake at four o’clock. She had been running a little late leaving the farm, so she knew it was well after four.

She was starting to get upset when she heard someone coming down the path. Looking up she caught sight of Jim Frayne jogging down the path that led from the Manor House. Despite her frustrations, she had to smile in appreciation of Jim’s muscular frame and good looks. It was no secret among the female members of the B.W.G.’s that Trixie had a crush on Jim. Unfortunately, it appeared that Jim was oblivious to it.

“Trixie,” he said. “We’ve been watching for you from the verandah, but we must’ve missed you as you walked by.” He stopped a few steps from Trixie and stared at her. From the look on his face, she realized a light bulb had gone off in his head at the sight of Trixie in her swim suit.

Trixie blushed, worried that Jim could read her thoughts about him. To distract him from staring at her, she snapped her fingers in front of his eyes and asked, “What’s up? Where is everyone?”

Jim shook his head as if to clear his brain and replied, “Brian, Honey and Dan are at the house. Mart ran over to Diana’s to pick her up.”

“So how come you’re not down here like we planned?” Trixie asked.

Jim didn’t respond right away. . He fought to keep his eyes focused on Trixie’s face, and away from the sight of her trim body in the blue suit. Once again, Jim had to shake his head to clear his twenty-one-year-old mind. “We’ve had a change in plans,” he explained. “Something came up and we’re not going to have time for a swim. Why don’t you go change back into your clothes, and then I’ll explain it to you while we walk back up to the house.”

Trixie pushed down her disappointment that she wouldn’t be able to cool off in the lake. She realized something important must have come up for her friends to abandon their plans. Quickly, she ducked back into the boathouse and changed back into her shorts and t-shirt. Pulling on her socks and shoving her feet back into her running shoes, she hurried to rejoin Jim outside.

“Let’s go,” she said, grabbing Jim’s hand and pulling him toward the path leading back to the Manor House. “I’m dying to know what happened.”

As they walked up the hill, Jim explained, “This afternoon Honey was online. I think she was doing something with that Lucy Radcliffe fan site you three girls are always talking about. Anyway, she got a tweet from Caroloma.”

Trixie groaned. “I’ve just spent the last three hours mucking out the chicken coop. If I hear one word about anything aviary I’m going to just die.”

Jim chuckled. “Well, I’d better call the funeral home then.”

Trixie stopped and stared at him, crossing her arms in front of her as her eyebrows shot up in inquiry. “Explain yourself,” she demanded.

“Well, Caroloma wanted to let everyone know that Troy Zapota’s parrot, Apple, had escaped earlier today.”

Trixie couldn’t’ move, she was so shocked at the news. “Say that again. Apple escaped?”

By now they were at the house, and Brian, Honey and Dan were waiting for them.

“Jim just told me about Apple,” Trixie said. “Have you talked to Troy at all?”

“I called Caroloma,” Honey explained. “Apparently, Apple was out of his cage and sitting on Troy’s shoulder when the doorbell rang. Troy forgot he was there as she opened the door. Before she knew it, Apple had flown out the front door and was sitting in the tree outside her window.”

“Well, it’s good that he hasn’t flown too far away,” Trixie said. “Can’t she just entice him with his favorite foods?”

Honey and Brian were sitting together on a porch swing, and Dan was leaning against the railing. The two guys listened as Honey continued the story. “She said that she had put out some ramen noodles and chicken pieces, but Apple didn’t budge from the tree. Troy’s worried that Apple will get spooked again. There were several birds in the area.”

Just then Mart and Diana pulled up in the Bob-White station wagon. When it had come to a stop, they climbed out and walked hand in hand up the steps.

“So, do you have a plan all worked out?” Mart asked.

“We haven’t gotten that far,” Jim said. “Honey was just bringing Trixie up to date on what has happened.”

“I feel so bad for Troy. Her birds are her babies, especially, Apple,” Diana said.

Caroloma and Troy were both friends of Trixie and Honey through the Lucy Radcliffe message boards. Caroloma lived in Boston, and Troy lived just outside Croton-on-the-Hudson. Honey and Trixie had met both of them last year when they attended a gathering of Lucy friends in Albany the previous summer. Since then they had regularly met with Troy.

Troy’s real name was Helen, but she used the screen name Troy, as in Helen of, and now most people didn’t even know what her real name was. Troy was a few years older than the two friends, but that hadn’t hindered their friendship. At least once a month, Trixie and Honey would meet Troy for lunch or a visit.

Troy’s hobby was raising exotic birds. She had a pair of lovebirds that had raised several babies, as well as Apple the Parrot. Apple was the apple of Troy’s eye.

The seven friends sat down and brainstormed ways to help. They knew that Troy didn’t have any family in the immediate vicinity and that she could probably use a good friend right now. It was decided that they would all go over to Croton-on-the-Hudson to help with capturing Apple. If they couldn’t get him tonight, they would work out some sort of plan to help out Troy.

“We’d better grab some rain jackets and sweaters,” Brian advised. “The weather report for tonight calls for some nasty thunderstorms.”

“All the more reason to get over there as fast as possible,” Dan said. “Should we stop and pick up some burgers on the way?”

Honey jumped to her feet. “We were going to have cold sandwiches with potato salad, chips and chocolate cupcakes for dessert. I’ll ask Cook to put them in a basket, and we can take them along. I’ll have her make some extras for Troy, and in case we are there for awhile. She’ll have it ready by the time everyone meets back here with their stuff.”

“It won’t take me long to get a sweatshirt and slicker,” Jim said. “I’ll run down to the clubhouse and get as many flashlights as I can find. Once it gets dark, they’ll come in handy.”

“Don’t forget your cell phones,” Mart reminded. “They’ll come in handy if we have to search for Apple.”

Within a half-hour, everyone had returned to the Manor House and they were headed down the driveway. Brian drove with Honey in the front seat. Jim, Dan and Trixie sat in the middle row with Mart and Diana in the back. Trixie called Troy to let her know they were coming and to find out if she needed anything.

“Troy,” she said into her phone. “How are you doing? Is Apple still nearby?”

She paused as she listened to what Troy had to say. “Oh no! can you still see him?” Responding to Trixie’s agitated tone, everyone except Brian, the driver, leaned closer to her. Seeing that her friends were bursting with curiosity, she held up her finger to silence them until Troy could finish giving her the update.

After a few minutes, Trixie replied, “Well, we’re on our way to Croton right now. All seven of the B.W.G.’s are coming to help. If we need to we’ll even climb a tree.” There was another pause before Trixie continued. “Don’t worry about it, Troy. That’s what friends are for. You’ve done so much for the Lucy message board; it’s an honor to help out. We’ll be there in less than twenty minutes.” Trixie hadn’t even snapped her phone shut before she was bombarded with questions.

“Hold on,” she said. “Apparently, Apple got spooked by a raven. He flew away, and Troy isn’t quite sure where he is. She’s pretty upset. I think she’s relieved that someone coming to help search for him.”

“I just hope she doesn’t do anything rash. She hasn’t fully recovered from her knee surgery, and she really shouldn’t be standing too long,” Diana said.

The car was just pulling into Croton. “I think she’ll take it easy now that she has someone else to help her,” Honey said over her shoulder.

Honey gave Brian directions to Troy’s house. They decided to park the car down the street so that it wouldn’t further spook Apple. As the Bob-Whites climbed out of the car, Dan and Mart grabbed the two picnic baskets.

“Do you think we can trust these two with the food?” Trixie asked with a twinkle in her eye.

Simultaneously, Mart and Dan held up their right hands and said, “Scout’s honor.”

“Heck of a lot of good that does,” replied Trixie. “You two have never been scouts. Now if Jim had said it, I wouldn’t be quite as worried since he was once a Boy Scout.”

“Is that the only reason you trust, Jim?” Diana whispered so Trixie was the only one to hear. Trixie blushed.

Dan’s and Mart’s shoulders sagged in mock dejection. “Can you believe she doesn’t believe us?” Dan asked.

“Yes,” Mart answered quite succinctly. “She’s my sister, after all.”

Diana sidled up to Mart and grabbed his free hand. “Come on you guys. Let’s not fight. We’ve got more important things to worry about.”

The seven friends headed down the street. They were careful to not make a lot of noise in case Apple was hiding in one of the trees. They didn’t want to spook him. As they approached Troy’s house, they didn’t immediately see her. Trixie was just about to pull her phone out of her pocket when Troy appeared, walking around from the back of the house. The slump of her shoulders and droop of her head told them how upset she was, although as soon as she spotted the Bob-Whites, she tried to smile.

“Thanks for coming, guys! I really appreciate it.” Troy’s smile began to quiver and Honey, Trixie and Diana quickly pulled her into a group hug. “I don’t know where he flew off to,” Troy sniffed. “I went inside because I had to go to the restroom and when I returned he was nowhere to be found.”

Honey gently guided Troy back into her house with the rest of the group following behind her. “We’re here to do whatever needs to be done, but the first thing we need to do is eat. Cook put together this picnic lunch, and we’re not going to let it go to waste.”

While the group ate, they discussed what the best plan of attack would be. Finally they decided that Mart and Diana would stay at the house and work the computer, posting messages on Facebook and Twitter as well as trying to find an organization nearby that might know of ways to entice parrots out of trees. To start, they would create a flyer that could be posted around the area.

Honey and Brian would visit all of the area businesses and post the flyers. They would also ask if anyone had seen the wayward bird, and where he had been spotted.

Trixie and Troy were going to head in the direction Troy thought Apple had flown while Jim and Dan were going to head the opposite way. They would all check back with each other by cell phone at regular intervals. Once darkness fell, they would re-group and come up with another plan.

The group dispersed and went about their assigned tasks. Troy and Trixie walked along the sidewalk. They knocked on doors to ask permission to check trees in backyards. Most people were sympathetic to their cause and let them look. Despite the helpful responses of neighbors, the evening wore on and there was still no sign of the errant bird.

“I’m worried, Trixie,” Troy said. “The longer Apple is gone, the less chance of us finding him. And since the weather is supposed to be nasty tonight, I’m even more concerned.”

Trixie placed a comforting arm around Troy’s shoulder and said, “It hasn’t been that long, and don’t forget, you’ve got the Bob-Whites to help you out. We’ll find him. I just know we will.”

Troy brushed the tears out of her eyes and tried to put on a brave face. They walked in silence for a few more minutes, their eyes peeled on the trees about and listening for Apple’s chatter.

“Maybe we should check in with everyone else and see if they’ve had any luck?” Trixie asked, pulling out her cell phone. She dialed Diana’s number and spoke for a few minutes. Turning to Troy, she shared what Diana had told her. “The bad news is that no one has seen Apple. The good news is that the entire Lucy board is praying for Apple’s safe return, and Rollie and her two daughters will be here tomorrow if we don’t find him by then. They also heard from Parrot 911. Those people have been giving them some good advice. Once we find Apple, we shouldn’t let him out of our sight.”

Troy nodded. Taking Trixie’s hand, she squeezed it, and said, “It really helps that the Bob-Whites are here. But the Lucy people have been so kind and helpful.” As her eyes began to fill again, she finished up. “I know Apple is a bird, but he’s like my baby. I don’t know what I’ll do if – if anything happens to him.” She dug into her pocket for a handkerchief and blew her nose.

“We’ll find him,” Trixie promised. “Please don’t worry, Troy. Thank goodness the Parrot 911 people have been so willing to help out. They’ve given us lots of information that I never would have known.”

The two friends searched for another thirty minutes. Trixie noticed that as they walked, Troy had been favoring one leg. She was concerned that Troy was doing damage to her recently repaired knee. They were several miles from Troy’s house, and Trixie feared that Troy wouldn’t be able to make it back.

“It’s getting dark,” Trixie said. “Why don’t we head back to your house and regroup? I’m going to call again to see where everyone is at.” After a few quick phone calls, they turned around and headed toward home. In a few minutes, the Bob-White station wagon pulled up next to them. Honey was driving and Jim was sitting in the front seat. Trixie wasn’t surprised to see them.

“Troy, you can ride back to the house with me,” Honey said, “and Jim will walk back with Trixie to make sure they didn’t miss Apple.”

Troy started to protest, but her knee nearly buckled as she stepped back. Reluctantly, she climbed into the car.

“We’ll find him,” Jim reassured her. “You’ve got the Schoolgirl Shamuses on the job, and they always solve their mysteries.” Trixie blushed at Jim’s compliment.

After Troy and Honey left, the two friends walked shoulder to shoulder in comfortable silence. Each was wrapped up in their own thoughts while looking for the lost bird. They were almost back to Troy’s house when they heard the chatter of a parrot.

“Do you hear that?” Trixie asked. “I bet it’s Apple.”

They both stopped and searched the surrounding trees, looking for any sign of the rebellious bird. The bird screeched again and both sets of eyes focused on a tree not twenty-five feet from Troy’s front door. Slowly, Jim and Trixie approached the tree, not taking their eyes off it for a minute. For several minutes they peered up into the branches. Dusk was falling, and it was getting hard to see in the shadows of the pine tree.

“Shh,” Jim said. “Look about halfway up the tree near the trunk. Is that Apple?” He pointed to the spot she should check.

Trixie looked but she didn’t see anything right away. Finally, there she spied the bright green feathers of a parrot. “I see it!” she whispered excitedly. “I’ll run over and let everyone know while you stay and keep an eye on him. Don’t let him out of your sight.”

Trying to make as little noise as possible, Trixie rushed to the house. She burst in the front door. “Jim found him,” she exclaimed. “Apple’s sitting in a pine tree not far from here.”

Troy started to stand up and rush out the door. Her leg gave out and Dan reached over to catch her before she fell. “Take it easy,” he warned. “You don’t want to reinjure your knee.” Troy reluctantly sat down.

Trixie continued to describe Apple’s location. As she was explaining , as spatter of raindrops could be heard on the roof. Several people let out a groan.

“The bad part of it is, that tree isn’t big enough for any of us to climb,” Trixie said. “We’ve brought our rain gear. I think we should keep a vigil and try to rescue him in the morning.”

Troy added, “Hopefully, he’ll settle down for the night and other birds won’t spook him.”

Mart and Diana claimed to take the first shift. They had been inside manning the computer, and were ready for some fresh air. Donning their raincoats and grabbing flashlights and lawn chairs, they went to relieve Jim.

Brian, the future doctor, made sure that Troy was resting her knee. He also found her pain medication and encouraged her to take one of them. “You won’t be able to take care of Apple when he returns if you’re in terrible pain,” he pointed out.

“I know,” Troy agreed with a sigh. “But I hate to take them. Not only do they make me drowsy, I just hate putting those chemicals into my body. I took the last of my grape extract pills and vervain tincture this morning.”

“We’ll go to the health-food store and get more of those in the morning,” promised sympathetic Honey. “I know how important it is to you to stick with natural products.”

“But since the store is closed now, please do take one of the pills,” Trixie urged. “I think the rest will do you a lot of good.”

After being assured that the rest of the group would watch over her precious Apple, Troy finally agreed to take the medication.

All through the night it continued to rain. Fortunately, the severe thunderstorms that had been predicted never materialized. Every hour or so, in pairs, the Bob-Whites took turns watching over Apple while Troy slept, knowing he was in good hands.

While Trixie and Jim were on their watch they heard the screech of an owl and worried that Apple would get spooked and take off again. Apple didn’t move, and Trixie attributed that to the power of the Lucy prayers. She wasn’t overly religious, but she had seen what those prayers could do and she didn’t doubt them for a minute.

When dawn broke, the rain stopped. Troy and Brian headed out to the tree to assess the situation. When Apple sensed Troy’s presence, he started to chatter happily.

While she was excited to see her friend had survived the night, she was still a worried. “Apple doesn’t know how to fly down, and a parrot’s natural instinct is to fly up when they are frightened. I’m afraid if someone tries to climb the tree he will just fly away.”

The rest of the Bob-Whites joined the group in front of the tree. Honey brought some good news. “I just spoke with Dad,” she said. “He’s hired a contractor that has done a lot of work for him. They’re sending a cherry picker truck over. It should be her within a half an hour. You’ll be able to go up yourself and retrieve Apple.”

The mood was much lighter than it had been the night before, but everyone was being cautious. There wouldn’t be any celebrations until Apple was safe and sound back home with his wings clipped so he couldn’t fly away again.

When the cherry picker turned onto the street, there was a moment of panic. Everyone was afraid its noise would spook Apple. Apple, however, sat quietly on the branch observing all of the activity below.

“He must sense this is his rescuer,” Diana said. “Otherwise I can’t believe he would sit so still.”

It took several minutes to get Troy and Scott, the operator, harnessed up and into the bucket. Seven pairs of eyes watched from below as Scott expertly maneuvered the bucket to within inches of the beloved bird. Using ramen noodles to entice him, Troy stretched out her arms and Apple quickly flew and sat on her shoulder. Taking his feet in her hands to make sure he wouldn’t escape again, she signaled to the operator and the bucket was lowered.

Once Troy was back on solid ground, she rushed Apple to the house. Everyone, including the bucket operator, followed behind her. Once inside with the doors shut, she quickly examined the bird. He appeared to be no worse for the wear, unlike Troy, who had to sit down because her knee wouldn’t support her. She didn’t let that dampen her spirits.

There was chaos for several minutes as everyone thanked Scott for his help. Honey rushed off to post the good news on the Lucy board and to call Caroloma with the good news.

Several hours later, Apple had been checked over by a veterinarian that specialized in exotic birds and had his wings properly clipped. Honey, Trixie and Diana had made a grocery run, and everyone was now sitting down to a celebratory brunch.

It was an exhausted but happy bevy of Bob-Whites who headed back to Sleepyside shortly after.

“Let’s offer a toast to the Schoolgirl Shamuses,” Jim suggested. “They always get their man – or in this case, their bird!” He squeezed Trixie’s shoulder in a way that was totally platonic.

“Jim, you were the one who spotted Apple,” Trixie protested. “And all the Bob-Whites helped.” She was happy, after all, that Jim seemed to have forgotten the way he stared at her in her swim suit. It was all my imagination, she decided. I need to finish college before I think about getting serious over a boy… even the most wonderful boy in the world.

“That’s right,” agreed Honey. “All for one, and one for all.”

“And most of all, all for Apple.” Dan smiled with satisfaction. “It was worth it to see how happy Apple and Troy were once they were reunited.”

“That’s what friends are for,” Mart added. “Here’s to Apple and Troy!”

Each Bob-White lifted a can of soda in response to Mart’s toast.


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Author Notes

This story is written in honor of all of the Jixers who prayed and worried while Apple the Parrot was gone missing. Terry (chromasnake) is one of those unsung heroes, who happily does a lot behind the scenes to make this community what it is.
- First of all I’d like to thank Mary N. and April W. for doing a super quick edit for me. I came up with this idea on Friday night when I was doing chores and wanted to get it done and posted over the weekend while last week’s activities were still fresh in everyone’s mind including mine. They made some great suggestions and caught lots of comma omissions.
- A super thank you to Mal for her very last minute awesome graphics. She made sure that the graphics would be pleasing to Terry’s sensitive eyes.
- Yes, there were several blatant cameos in this story, for those of you who appeared I hoped you enjoyed your foray into Down on the Farm.
- Much of the information about catching wayward parrots I got from Terry herself, via her updating of her post on the Jix MB.
- Facebook and Twitter are social networking sites. Someone owns them, and I’m not making any money off of mentioning them.
- Scott, the bucket operator, is a nod to Scott, the maintenance man who returned Apple to his rightful owner.
- The information about the herbal medicines is courtesy of Mary N. she not only suggested using them but also found the information about them. Her source is
-Word count 4,018

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